Bounced Check? Understanding What It Means, Fees and How to Tell if a Check Bounced

Even though most people rely on their debit cards for everyday transactions, especially those conducted online, checks are still the preferred method of transferring money in many official capacities.

Checks represent a legal contract between you as the person who writes the check and the recipient, the person to whom you write the check.

You might write checks for any government service, tax payments to the IRS, mortgage payments or rent to a landlord or bank or official services like electricity and gas.

So What Constitutes a Bounced Check?

A bounced check is a check which was processed by the bank but returned to the person who made the deposit because there wasn't enough money in the account. It is called a bounced check because it is bounced back or sent back to the person who wrote it.

Bounced Check Fee

If your check bounced, the bank would give you a fee. This fee is meant to:

  • Cover the administrative costs of the bank because they put in the work to process your check and
  • Serve as a punitive measure, meaning a punishment to dissuade you from doing it ever again.

How Much is a Bounced Check Fee?

If your check bounces, you might see an NSF Fee or NSF return item fee on your account.

The cost will vary based on your bank. For example:

  1. The Bank of America overdraft fee is $35 and might show up as a “returned item fee” or “NSF.”
  2. The Chase overdraft fee for a bounced check is $34, sometimes called the “returned item fee” or “insufficient funds fee.”
  3. The Wells Fargo overdraft fee for bouncing a check is $35.
  4. The TD Bank overdraft fee is also $35.
  5. The US Bank overdraft fee and PNC overdraft fee are among the highest at $36 per bounced check.

How to Know if a Check Bounced

You might be asking yourself, given the potential charges, how do I know if my check bounced?

  1. Your bank will likely inform you that you bounced a check if you have notifications set up on your account for email or text messages.
  2. If you do not have notifications set up, you might tell if a check bounces because the person to whom you wrote the check informs you. On the other end of this process, the recipient to whom you wrote the check is going to be told by their bank that there simply wasn't enough money to process the check you wrote them. If it's a friend, they might call you and kindly inform you but if it's a landlord, the call might be less kind.
  3. You might also tell when you simply log into your account next time and see that there is a fee assessed.

Check Bounced but Money in Account

There are times when a check bounced, but money was in your account. It is rare, but sometimes mistakes are made, or there was a processing error where you didn't have enough money, so the check didn't clear even if it was by a few cents. In other situations, you may have a regularly occurring or auto-pay bill set up. It is processed simultaneously, so even though there was money, the computer saw that money was already allocated for your auto pay bill, so it sent the check back.

If this happens to you, you need to contact the bank and fight the fee.

  • Contact your bank customer service and inform them that you had money in your account. If you still have that money in your account, it will help you in the negotiations.
  • Be very kind and calm instead of angry and loud.
  • Ask them what can be done about this fee and ask them to reprocess to check.

Below you will find contact information for a handful of banks should this happen to you:

BankCustomer Support Number
Bank of America1 (800) 432-1000
Chase1 (800) 935-9935
Wells Fargo1 (800) 869-3557
TD Bank1 (888) 751-9000
US Bank1 (800) 872-2657
PNC1 (888) 762-2265

How to Avoid the Fee for a Bounced Check

You can avoid this check bounced fee with overdraft protection. The law says banks must offer this alternative to avoid taking advantage of you financially.

However, overdraft protection will still charge you a fee, simply a smaller fee.

Let's look at a table of rates for overdraft protection against a bounced check:

BankFee Explanation
Bank of AmericaBank of America charges $12 each time money is moved from your savings account.
ChaseChase charges up to $5 for each transfer from your Chase-linked savings account.
Wells FargoWells Fargo will charge a fee each time, based on the amount transferred.
TD BankTD Bank charges you $3 per day when a transfer is made from your savings account, but TD Bank still charges $35 for processing for all other overdraft protection services.
US BankThere is a $12.50 charge for transfers from another US Bank account.
PNCWhen you link a PNC savings account, there are no fees for overdraft protection.

This table shows that you will still face a check bounced fee if your check gets returned, but in most cases, it's going to be much less than what you would be charged if you didn't have that protection and you got the returned item fee.

For example, Mark has a checking account and savings account with Bank of America. Mark wrote a check for his golf club dues, and the check bounced. Without protection, Mark would be charged $35, and his check would not go through, which means he would still owe his golf club dues. The golf club might even charge him for being late. Meanwhile, if Mark had coverage, you would be charged $12 to move money from his Bank of America savings account and his golf club dues would be paid.

What if I Received a Bounced Check?

On the opposite end of that, you might have received a bounced check. A bounced check can be resubmitted.

In fact, most banks will try to redeposit a returned check two times after the initial failed attempt.

Can I Redeposit a Bounced Check?

Yes. But it might be advisable for you to wait a few days before you try to redeposit the bounced check in case of a delay with money being available. Trying to redeposit a check is a much better solution than other bounced check legal action because no official laws dictate how many times you can redeposit a bounced check.

Can a Bounced Check Be Resubmitted?

A bounced check can be resubmitted, and if the bank doesn't do it for you automatically, you can try again or reach out to the person who wrote you the check if you know them to see if they can fix the problem on their end.